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Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn

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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. Rembrandt was also a proficient printmaker and made many drawings. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age (roughly equivalent to the 17th century), in which Dutch culture, science, commerce, world power and political influence reached their pinnacles.

In all, Rembrandt produced around 600 paintings, 300 etchings, and 2,000 drawings. He was a prolific painter of self-portraits, producing almost a hundred of them (including some 20 etchings) throughout his long career. Together they give us a remarkably clear picture of the man, his looks, and Ð'-- more importantly Ð'-- his emotions, as misfortune and sorrow etched wrinkles in his face. Among the prominent characteristics of his work are his use of chiaroscuro, often using stark contrasts, thus drawing the viewer into the painting; his dramatic and lively scenes, devoid of any rigid formality that contemporary artists often displayed; and his ostensibly deeply felt compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age. His immediate family Ð'-- his wife Saskia, his son Titus, and his common-law wife Hendrickje Ð'-- often figured prominently in his paintings, many of which had mythical, biblical, or historical themes.

Rembrandt was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden, the Netherlands. Conflicting sources state that his family either had 7, 9 or 10 children. His family was quite well to do; his father being a miller, his mother a baker's daughter. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had more inclination towards painting. His parents gave in and he was apprenticed with a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh. After a brief but important apprenticeship with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerard Dou.

By 1631, Rembrandt had established such a good reputation that he received several assignments for portraits from Amsterdam. As a result, he moved to that city and into the house of an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh. This move eventually led, in 1634, to the marriage of Rembrandt and Hendrick's greatniece, Saskia van Uylenburg. This was obviously a marriage for love. Although she came from a good family (her father had been burgomaster of Leeuwarden), Saskia was an orphan and was probably not very wealthy. She lived with her sister in Frisia and did not have many 'grand' connections in Amsterdam. These events, however, are widely disputed.

In 1639, Rembrandt and Saskia moved to a prominent house in the Jodenbreestraat in the Jewish quarter, which later became the Rembrandt House Museum. Although they were affluent the couple had several setbacks in their personal life. Three of their children died shortly after birth. Only their fourth child, a son, Titus, who was born in 1641, survived into adulthood. Saskia died in 1642

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